Dia de los Muertos



P.W Knight

An alter for a love one who has moved on in life in Teotihuacan, Mexico

P.W Knight, Staff Writer

As I sat on a plane bound for Mexico City and the Dia De Los Muertos Parade and celebrations throughout the country, I had no idea what to expect. Multiple sources had told me to beware of the country and city and the dangers it may hold for foreigners. It could not have been farther from the truth. From the moment of my arrival there was a buzz of energy and excitement in the air. It was the second annual, and controversial, Day of the Dead or Dia De Los Muertos Parade.

P.W Knight
A demonstration of decoration made by the people of Mexico.

First we must understand the Day of the Dead. The real celebration is November 2; the other days of celebrations were adopted from the United States. These are sacred days in Mexican and Latin American Culture. According to People magazines Alex Heigl, “Mexico’s day of the dead is one of the country’s most revered holidays, but for most of its history it never had a parade.” Last year was the inaugural year for this particular spectacle in the heart of the city. It was inspired by the opening scene of the James Bond film, ‘Spectre.’ Heigl stated that last year “more than 100,000 attendees crowded the Paseo de la Reforma avenue in Mexico City in full garb…but historically, Day of the Dead celebrations in Mexico are quieter, more family based affairs, but after a large-scale parade was created for the film, the country’s tourism board decided to go ahead and make the parade a real event.”

What I discovered on the ground is that the locals neither care very much for or against the particular James Bond inspired parade, but some are less pleased because of the sacred nature of this day in the culture to honor loved ones. Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on how you feel about Dia De Los Muertos personally, I was stuck in Mexico City’s notorious traffic en route to the Second annual parade, so I missed the vast spectacle that was inspired by the Film. However, I attended a more personal and more genuine Day of the Dead celebration in a town outside of Mexico City called Teotihuacan.

In Teotihuacan, I saw the real importance and reverence of the holiday, with loved ones actually building elaborate and beautifully decorated altars to those family members and friends who had passed away. It was upon seeing this that I had an understanding as to how some locals would be disenchanted with a parade inspired by a “gringo” film of a former colonial empire that was responsible for repression and the mutilation of other cultures as was inflicted upon the Mexicans ancient pre-Hispanic culture by the Spaniards. It was here that I saw the raw emotion and felt the power of remembrance and reverence to those one loves and calls family.

It warmed my heart to witness the kindness and beauty of the People of Mexico and the culture itself. Coming from the United States and with all the political turmoil, I had no idea what kind of welcome to expect. What I encountered was beauty, amazing food, kindness and welcoming from the people of Mexico to a gringo from Texas, and for that I will eternally be grateful.

I recommend that, if given the opportunity, anyone who can, should visit Mexico during this time or anytime and go and explore the beauty and history and rich culture that endures and thrives and that is Mexico.

On a personal note, it was incredibly moving to see the kindness of the Mexican people themselves after having suffered not one, but two devastating earthquakes on September 19 and 30. I witnessed sense of solidarity and community during my visit and it reminded me what was felt in Houston after our own disaster that was Hurricane Harvey. Witnessing this gives hope that even in times of great turmoil and disaster, no matter what culture or country one comes from, humanity finds a way to move forward together, and the people of Mexico City and Houston are a shining example of everything that is good and hopeful for the future in the world.